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Best wineries to visit

Toronto, Canada
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630 posts
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Best wineries to visit

Does anyone have any suggestions as to which wineries are the best to visit for someone who's never visited a NOTL winery before? By "best", I guess I mean nice architecture, beautiful vineyards, good service, etc.

gxp
Niagara
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1. Re: Best wineries to visit

The larger wineries tend to have staff to do tastings and tours. Smaller ones have more limited time and resources.

A good one would be Chateau des Charmes which does a good job of it as well as having one of the most impressive buildings.

Check http://www.chateaudescharmes.com/

Ottawa, Canada
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2. Re: Best wineries to visit

Hi Politikgirl,

Welcome to the NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE TRAVEL FORUM.

First off Niagara’s Wine Country is so much more than just NOTL… Wine Country spans the 50 some Kms from NOTL thru to Winona, and well over 100 Wineries. It is just NOTL that gets all the “press” because it is the most prominent town in the region, and also because it is where the modern wine culture started.

If you have access to a car (I see your TA LOCATOR says Toronto) then I certainly wouldn’t restrict yourself to just this small portion of wine country… if you are exploring via an Organized Wine Tour… then you are pretty much stuck with whatever their schedule is (although some companies offer either a choice of NOTL or higher up on the Bench).

The first thing you need as a reference point is the Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario which is available both on line www.winesofontario.ca or hard copies can be got by mail or picked up at any Ontario Winery or local LCBO in wine country.

The Guide gives you a ton of info about wineries in Ontario… and there is a great pull-out map in the centre (which makes getting the hard-copy that much more great to have when touring).

Wineries tend to come in a variety of categories… the BIG Corps (Internationals with names you are most familiar with… primarily found in and around the immediate area of NOTL) – Mediums – Small and Family Run Ops. You’ll also find some Specialty Wineries using different winemaking techniques (Organic – Gravity Fed etc).

As a general rule the minimum time required for this exploration will be a half-day, a full day would be better… and if you are a true wine lover one could easily make a long weekend of it.

On the average one will spend 1 to 2 Hours at a Winery… count on 2 Hours if you do a Tour and Tasting, and just 1 Hour if you just check out the Tasting Bar.

Each winery is different from the next, and each has its own merits… be that the wine – architecture – setting – winemaking process – varietals – or extras…

I always suggest that Travellers mix it up when touring… picking a little bit of everything.

When it comes to the Niagara Peninsula you will fortunately find it all… Award Winning Architecture (Jackson-Triggs – Stratus – Southbrook), Setting (EastDell – Legends), Process (Flat Rock – Frog Pond) – Varietals (Sparking = Hillebrand, Baco Noir = Henry of Pelham) – Extras (Cooking School = Stewn, Accommodations = Riverbend Inn & Winery, and Restaurants… Too many to mention).

As you can see there is a lot to choose from… and many wineries in each category (I have just given you a wee sample)… it will all be up to you and your wine knowledge and interests.

Wines of Niagara – the wines will vary by the region they are grown in “terroir”. The wines of NOTL are greatly different from those higher up on “the Bench” (Escarpment). In Niagara you’ll find both Reds and Whites, Sparkling and of course award winning Ice Wine.

NOTL is most known for wines that require warmer temps… wines similar to California or the Okanagan. Look for Chardonnays, Medium to Full-Bodied Reds (Cabernets, Heritage and Winemaker Blends) along with Sparklings and Ice Wine. Further up the bench… the climate is a bit cooler, and comparable to say Alsace or Germany… look for Crisp Whites (Riesling, Gewurtztraminer), Medium-Bodied Reds (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) and the worlds best Ice Wine (Royal DeMaria). Of course the winemakers of the region are constantly experimenting and perfecting their art… you will find some surprises – Baco Noir (Henry of Pelham). And because of the fact that the Ontario Wineries don’t get any help from the LCBO (they are treated like everyone else worldwide) many local wineries restrict the wine that they sell to the LCBO (keeping the best “small batch” Winemakers blends only to be sold at the Wineries. So if you find something you like BUY IT… there is a good chance you won’t find it anywhere else.

When it comes to sampling, the Ontario Alcohol & Gaming Commission sets the Rules… one is allowed by law only 6 oz (3 x 2 oz pours) per Winery. The best way around this is to visit with a friend and share pours… this way you can try 6 wines between you instead of just 3. And remember, you don’t have to drink everything you try… you can spit or dump in the spittoon provided if you are not impressed.

The most “dangerous” chance you probably have of over-indulging all day will be at lunch. Winery lunches are hard to resist… be they picnics in the vineyard, casual patio fare, a more romantic setting, or the full-blown 5 Star (4 Diamond) treatment. Many of the highend lunches in particular come with the option of a wine-pairing… one full pour (5 oz) with each course… that can really add up if you get into 3 or 4 courses.

This should get you started… if you need more info ask… there are also a zillion other topics here on the NOTL TRAVEL FORUM about wineries and wine touring (and winery meals – ice wine etc). You can browse back thru past topics… and the FORUMS are also searchable (just type in any keyword(s) to the SEARCH BOX which can be found at the top of the list of topics for the Forum).

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

London, Canada
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3. Re: Best wineries to visit

Just a bit of a correction......

Riverbend Inn *and Vineyard* does indeed have a vineyard that produces wonderful vintages....but not a winery, or tours. Their bottles are available on the premises or at Reif Winery down the road....listed under "Private Collections".

http://www.reifwinery.com/

http://www.riverbendinn.ca/

There are several wineries you can visit on the way in from Toronto or on the way back in addition to those near Niagara on the Lake, depending on the time of day.

Personally we really like Vineland Estates Winery which has a lovely shop with a tasting bar, fabulous restaurant and gorgeous setting.

http://www.vineland.com/

Depending on the time of year, we also like to stop at Angel's Gate which has a wonderful patio overlooking vineyards where on a clear day, you can see across the lake to Toronto. The wines are alright, but the tapas lunches are terrific.

http://www.angelsgatewinery.com/

Peninsula Ridge is on the same road and has the same view, excellent wines, with interesting tasting pairings with cheese for a small price. We have never been disappointed with the service at any of those.

http://www.peninsularidge.com/

If you want a tour then I too would recommend Chateau des Charmes. There do tours on a regular basis with tastings at the end.

We've always found the staff at almost all of the wineries to be very friendly and helpful, but at the larger wineries like Peller, they are often rushed when large busloads of people arrive.

You can check out more wineries here too:

http://www.20valley.ca/

Enjoy!

Edited: 19 April 2010, 15:56
Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: Best wineries to visit

Wow, thanks for all of the information, gxp, Wine-4 2 and Tobie! I'll be sure to look through your suggestions carefully and do a bit of research myself.

The reason we're planning on going to NOTL specifically as opposed to Niagara's wine country more broadly speaking is because despite living in Toronto for the past 21 years, none of us have ever been to NOTL. If we enjoy the winery experience here (which I think I will - I loved the winery experience in California's wine country, for example), we'll be sure to explore the rest of NIagara's wine country sometime in the near future.

Edited: 19 April 2010, 21:54
Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: Best wineries to visit

Hi Politikgirl,

You are very welcome... sounds like a great plan!

Guaranteed, you will fall in love and be planning a return visit even before the first is over.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Toronto, Ontario
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580 posts
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6. Re: Best wineries to visit

Start by getting a copy of the wine route map and go from there. There's about ten to twenty wineries within a short drive of NOTL. Of the bigger ones I liked Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs, Peller felt a bit too "tour bus" for me, but I have heard very good things about the restaurant. Reif is nice, and a bit smaller than some of the other ones I have listed.

Sunnybrook Farm fruit winery is a nice change of pace if you want to try some fruit wines. Their spiced apple is lovely.

There is a store in downtown NOTL that does wine samples from a select group of wineries.

7. Re: Best wineries to visit

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